After mask mandate, RSS COVID-19 numbers improve dramatically

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, September 14, 2021

SALISBURY — Rowan-Salisbury Schools’ COVID-19 quarantines and infections have declined sharply after previous record-setting numbers.

On Friday, the district recorded 106 student infections and 1,178 quarantines. A week ago, the active infections were 286; quarantines were 2,432. Two weeks ago, there were 282 infections and 3,192 quarantines.

Staff infections and quarantines are also down. There were 25 cases of COVID-19 in employees as of Friday and 80 quarantines. A week earlier, there were 134 staff quarantines and 45 positives.

RSS administration anticipated COVID-19 numbers would improve after a mask mandate was implemented in August. The mandate was extended until the end of the first quarter — Oct. 11.

Rowan County Health Director Alyssa Harris said improving numbers are a good indication the district is doing the right thing.

“I would say it’s a good indication that, not only is masking helping keep kids out of quarantines based on the policies, we are starting to see that decline in cases,” Harris said.

The county’s positivity rate, the percent of people who test positive after taking a COVID-19 test, is down slightly — from 22% to 20.2%.

Harris noted there may be some improvements, but people working in hospitals do not necessarily see them yet because serious illness generally comes after a positive test. She cautioned against stopping precautions because there is still a large population of people who need to be protected, including kids who are 12 and under who can not get vaccinated.

Harris said the county would also like to see more people in the 12-18 age range vaccinated. Less than 30% of that age range is vaccinated.

“I think the goal is to still do what we can to flatten the curve,” Harris said.

RSS board member Travis Allen vocally supported not quarantining “healthy children” during the board’s Monday meeting, adding the board is playing by someone else’s rules.

People not showing symptoms are told to quarantine after an exposure because there is a lag between exposure, the onset of symptoms and a the ability of a test to show a positive case.

Allen said he believes the district is doing a better job deciding whether it is necessary for a student to quarantine and being less aggressive.

Allen said it was encouraging to see Superintendent Tony Watlington getting involved in concerns about quarantines via email.

“I wish I could just tell the governor and everybody else to go jump in the creek and we’re not going to listen to them, but that’s not an option for us at this time,” Allen said.

Board member Dean Hunter said he’s had conversations with families claiming they’ve been told things contrary to state guidelines.

“It’s kind of getting old that we’re having these conversations,” Hunter said. “On the positive, we do have a third of what we had a month ago, or three weeks ago, but I still think 1,178 quarantines is still far too many that are home that are healthy and staying home for 10 days.”

Board member Brian Hightower said everybody will not agree, but the district is doing a good job of not adding to the number of cases. If a parent has questions, he or she can call school administration or the central office.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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